Thursday, August 16, 2007

Still learning about son

In many ways, we know nothing about my son. He’s almost 11 months old.

We see him do something new and think, is that what he will be?

Yet we still aren’t sure what color his hair will be, permanently. It seems blond right now. But I was blond as a child, they say. His mother is blond, but my son doesn’t use any such products on his hair. (That line might have been a suicide attempt. Not sure.)

I watch him throw things around, with his left arm more than his right arm lately. And they are tossed with such force.

He will be a major league pitcher, I think. A quarterback. I’m sure of it.

His little donut ring toy — he rolls it around, so he might could be a bowler. Or maybe a mechanic or a tire changer on a NASCAR race team.

His favorite toy right now is a little wooden biplane with big wheels. It’s meant to be ridden somewhat like a tricycle, but his feet don’t reach the ground when he’s on it. But he leans on it and it’s helping him learn to walk.

He can roll along so good with it — he loves it.

Will he be a pilot?

Or a runner? That would be certainly falling far from the vine, as his daddy isn’t a runner. I’m not even a brisk walker.

He’s a good boy. I’ve heard people say that about their kids and seen evidence, quickly, that it isn’t exactly so.

He’s got a little bit of mischief in him, but he does it in plain sight, that little smile on his face letting all know he knows he’s pushing a button.

But he’s 99 percent good and happy, and only unhappy when he bumps his head or has got a cold bigger than the usual baby sniffles.

Whatever happens, I think he will be a gentle man and a gentleman, like his grandfather, for whom he is named.

He got the biplane from my wife’s parents. The maternal grandparents also got him a huge fluffy ball of a toy, a duck. When you squeeze it, it makes a noise, a ducky, coughy kind of noise. That’s his second favorite toy, I think.

He doesn’t squeeze it with a hand or an arm. He attacks it, attacks it like he’s a paramedic doing CPR.

“I … won’t … let you die!” he seems to be saying as he fiercely pushes onto the duck’s “heart.” Is he the next Johnny Gage/Roy DeSoto? (Does anyone remember the guys from “Emergency.”)

We have baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. He crawls over to them, stands up, rattles them.

“Let me out, ya screws!” I say everytime I see him do it. He’s like Jimmy Cagney in “White Heat.”

Whatever he becomes, he won’t make a good jail bird, I think.

The way he swished about in the bathtub, we knew he was going to be a great swimmer. I love to swim, but his mother, she used to competitive swim as a girl.

Is he the next Mark Spitz?

So when he got into the pool at my sister’s development, we were surprised he didn’t want to stay in as long as we thought he might. But it was a relief, a bit, to me. I’m not too sure I like the idea of any progeny of mine going about in a Speedo.

He just stares at things at times, and I think he’s going to be a scientist. Deep, deep thoughts.

He pushes a box along, opens things up, tries to take a few things and I think he might be like his Uncle John or his Grandpa Tom. A handy man, good with tools.

We don’t know anything, really. But we look at all he does, simple, silly things, all of it new to him and made new to us.

I don’t want to find out too soon, but I am also dying to find out what this little man might someday become.

Then I change one of his diapers, one of THOSE diapers, and I know.

He’s going to be a politician.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Blind man's bluff

I knew it would catch up with us, and I'm surprised it took as long as it did.
But on Friday, it finally did.
For the past four weeks, I've been operating the editorial department kind of with a handicap.
I have an odd eye condition most people don't know about called keratoconus.
I've known about it since I was a senior in high school. Twice, while in college, I had surgery.
The National Keratoconus Foundation describes it thusly — "(Ker-a-to-co-nus) Keratoconus, often abbreviated to "KC", is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins causing a cone-like bulge to develop. This results in significant visual impairment. The cornea is the clear window of the eye and is responsible for refracting most of the light coming into the eye. Therefore, abnormalities of the cornea severely affect the way we see the world making simple tasks, like driving, watching TV or reading a book difficult."
If you could see what I see.
The most extreme treatment for this condition is a cornea transplant. In college, I twice had a slightly less severe version of this, in which a part of my cornea was removed, and a graft of healthy cornea put in that place. It shores up the weakened areas while not being as severe as a transplant. There is some risk of rejection with a complete transplant.
Don't know why it happens, why I was picked out of our family to be the one to get it.
Earlier this year, I had a little procedure done on my left eye, because the vision had gotten very bad.
The doctor who did my eye surgery when I was in college isn't doing surgery anymore, so he switched me to another doctor in the practice. That doctor did something called a "debrisment," in which I sat dutifully in a chair while he poked me in the eye.
It wasn't actual poking, but he took a little tool and scraped my left cornea. I had some pain meds for after. The tool he used is no bigger than a Q-Tip, but when you have it actually touching your eye, it looks like you are getting scrapped with a log.
Before that procedure, Dr. Holland Croswell had listed the vision in my left eye as 20/200.
It was an odd number, I thought. So I did a web search for "legal blindness."
Hmm. The search I found was interesting. If you are worse than 20/200, you are legally blind, that's what I found out.
I wondered about that. Did I really pull the exact vision needed to avoid that classification? Or did he pull one over on me, knowing we'd have a fix soon enough?
It took about six weeks for the eye to heal. But I went from that 20/200 to 20/100 about two weeks later. When I came in for my last check, he got my vision to 20/50. I think that's with the glasses. But wow. What an improvement.
My left eye is the problem one, right?
I didn't know how bad it still was until the week of the Fourth of July.
I had an "epithelial erosion."
On my right eye.
I didn't know what it was at the time. I just knew my right eye was tearing. It started to feel like there was a cut or scratch on it. We were driving to visit my folks in Spartanburg, and I insisted my wife drive because it was bothering me so much.
I honestly thought I was having some kind of allergic reaction, but it also got painful. I'd turn my eye, and it would hurt. I would go out into my sister's backyard and the sunlight would be painful. Just for a few seconds.
A combination of a Benadryl and some ibuprofen seemed to get it under control. When I went to bed, it seemed fine. It was just as bad the next day, which should have, in hindsight, should have clued me in:
a) that it was a physical thing (irritated overnight), and
b) that I probably should go to to some doctor.
But I wasn't clued in. We finished our holiday weekend, I stopped doing any unnecessary reading at home, and tried to go to work.
A week later, I drove to work, sat down at my computer. There had been no pain or irritation for a week. But I couldn't read my computer screen. I looked down at the mail I had to go through, the faxes.
Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zip. Zilch.
Like so much in my life, I'd let it slide.
I got on my cell, called my eye doctor in Columbia, and forced my way into an appointment with my former eye doctor. I had a bit of time to kill.
When I got to his office, I couldn't read a magazine in the waiting room, etc.
So he told me, after I saw him, about the epithelial erosion. It's like a cut or scratch on my eye. It was right where my graft had been. He gave me a prescription for an ointment to put in at night, and gave me antibiotic drops, to make sure the eye didn't get infected. That's what really clued me in to what had happened. The outermost layer of tissue on my eye had been blinked away, just a bit. but the clear covering of the eye, the cornea, is what does most of the work refracting light. Focusing it.
My right eye was my good eye, but I lost a big part of the focusing power.
I've been back, to my new doctor. He said it is healed over, so I can stop the drops. It hasn't healed over regularly, evenly, smoothly. But for now, we agreed to try a new prescription for both eyes, and I'm going back in September. If it really isn't working good, then my next step is a cornea transplant.
Given that the grafts I had in college lasted almost 20 year, I'm not afraid of that. Not much.
I don't know what to call it. It's not blind, because I can see well enough to drive, recognize the smile on my son's face. I wasn't illiterate, but I couldn't read because of my vision.
But to boil it down, I've been basically blind for three weeks. Yet we've still been able to get a paper out. And we've got some good ones too.
I was able to assign a couple of stories I heard about to those students who were here in June.
But it was sure to catch up with us.
There are a couple of other stories that I have seen in other places, but those seemed to be updates of older stories, for the most part. We've had a dozen or so other stories that no one else has touched yet, including the story of a soldier home from war, another story of a soldier injured in the a war. We continue to be the first media to report on a two-time rapist and the Attorney General's attempts to commit him to a hospital for "treatment."
Those are just a couple of exclusives we've done.
But I knew it would catch up to us. Last week, Sports Editor Travis Jenkins was on honeymoon. Another key staffer was on vacation My boss was out for a day. An ad sales rep was out many days.
We have been limited, as most papers are in the summer. But our absences seem to have fallen all in the same week, a week when the editor was blind as a bat.
We might not have missed what we missed Friday, except I was out, and our newest reporter was on his way to New York State for a wedding. I was working from home in the morning, but I was going to the eye doctor's for that checkup. So I wasn't in Chester to hear about the bank robbery. The ladies, the few ladies, at the office, didn't call me at home thinking I was already at the eye doctor's. I might have been able to do something from home had they called.
But I basically was told when I was in my car on my way to Columbia. I was ticked. At myself.
Still, when I got a chance to see what others had, I was kind of surprised.
My story had just about what everyone else had, but one or two nuggets others didn't. We had pictures from the "scene" taken by the publisher. Unless you are somehow in the bank, nobody gets good still pictures of a bank robbery. It's cop cars outside a building.
But this one also had a cordon, and cordon pictures are generally good. I've been doing this long enough to know that much. A cordon has guys in reflective vests, usually, sometimes police lights. Occasionally, like this time, you get to see drawn weapons.
I put what I had up by 8:54 p.m. Friday. I sent out a breaking news alert before that, but not much.
That didn't break the story but did have a fuller story than any other media that I came across. It had details of the search, that the dog team had come across evidence the dye packs deployed, etc.
A fuller story than many done by people who can actually, you know, see.
I had a thought at one point after I heard about the bank robbery and before I got to the eye doctor's office.
"Why'd he pick today?"
A little anger directed at the robber. But I snapped back into normal mode. I was born a Bronx Irish Catholic. Altar boy. Choir boy. All that.
We know guilt. Retail it.
I let my readers down here. I think the new glasses are going to work fine.
But I'll try not to go blind again when there's a big story brewing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Xs and Os for Daddy's Day

By Stephen Guilfoyle

There was a touch of sadness in my dad's voice a few years back.

He had gone up to New York City, I think for a funeral.

My cousins had given him a hug and a kiss.

"I can get my nephews to give me a little kiss, but not my sons," he said.

So I gave him a pat on the back.

I'm no one's definition of a macho man, but I have taken on, over the years, some decidedly macho mannerisms.

I prefer always to go to a barber shop. I want to go in and grunt. If there is to be conversation, let it be about football, baseball and nothing in between. Or the latest political goings-on with them "idiots" up in Washington or down in Columbia.

I do not want to talk about what I want done to my hair.

I want to say, "Regular cut" nine months of the year and "Trim" in the summer and get the exact same hair cut for my $5 bucks. But that hasn't happened, really, since I moved from New York. Just can't find a good old fashioned enough barber, most of the time. Or can't go to the few I've found regularly enough, given my commute.

That's just one thing. I do eat quiche, and they have a fantastic quiche at the Olde English Creamery, but I haven't been back to get it since that first time.

But I resisted quiche as a youngster. But break it down. You say quiche, I say cheese and bacon pie. What could be more dude-ish than cheese and bacon? Than pie?

Not much.

But along the line, I had stopped giving my dad a hug giving him a goodbye kiss or just saying, "Love you" when I left his home or on the phone.

He said what he said, and I've done a better job, since, but I still don't do it all the time. But he deserves them all. He's a great guy, and the best father.

I bring this up, because I get it now. I understand.

It was Father's Day Sunday. My first Father's Day

Just coincidentally, my son kissed me, on Sunday. Or maybe not coincidentally.

His mother my lovely bride goes into work most Sunday afternoons, so my boy and I have a lot of "daddy time" as my wife calls it.

I get to play with him, get to feed him, get to change him, get to give him his bath and get to put him to bed almost every Sunday.

He had this thing he did with his mother and me, where he'd come at us, mouth wide open. I called it a kiss, but he could just as easily been trying to chew my chin off. Gnaw a little, dribble a little drool down our chins.

Is that saying I love you? Or is that just sharing the saliva? Spreading the spit?

On Sunday, he wasn't feeling great. He's normally a great eater - my son, after all - but he didn't have a great appetite. I took him out of his high chair and fed him these little "puffs" they have now, no calories, one by one.

After a while, he wouldn't eat them off his high chair tabletop, but he took them from me, one by one.

He just liked them, so he ate them. But after about the third he ate from my hand, sitting on my lap, he smiled and leaned in, all the way in.

He didn't open up his mouth for the "bite" he usually takes. Nope, he just smooshed his mouth against mine. And did it two more times, smiling all the while.

To some people, fathers are a joke, a punchline. Many times, fathers aren't there, and we are bearing the price as a society.

We hear a lot about children cast rudderless because they don't have a father or enough positive male role models. To me, that bodes not well for the future. But the problem with absent fathers isn't just the effect it will have down the road.

This little man is changing me every single day, making me be better every single day, and making me want to be better, every single day.

The men who are absent from their children are both fools and they are missing out on the best thing possible. They are paying a price now that they have no idea about.

I'm told I dote on my son and my family has been good enough to let me know they think I'm doing a good job, so far.

"All you need is love," John, Paul, George and Ringo sang a long time ago. If only that were true.

My son has been sick a couple of times, stumbled and landed bad - sometimes on his head, and cried, more than a couple of times. I love him, but that doesn't make the sick go away, doesn't make the hurt stop hurting. I wrap him up in a hug, but he still, sometimes, whimpers or cries.

All you need is love. I wish that were true.

But love does give and does solve some things.

When I married, I said my wife was making me into the man I was supposed to be. Funny how a good woman can do that.

My son is filling in the gaps, making me into a man I never thought I could be.

It's a shame that it seems that fatherhood sounds like I'm doing a lot more taking than giving. But my son is giving so much to me.

We had a special day, and I know why my father wants a hug and a kiss from his sons, because I know how good it makes you feel, now, to have your son kiss you. And he won't get any guff from me about it any more.

So it was a very special day. We ended it like any other, doing that pre-sleep ritual. I, of course, gave him his bath, and he played and he splashed and he played and he laughed.

And then he pooped in the tub.

All you need is love? Love doesn't scoop a floater out of the tub.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Flashing back to my baby's birth

I thought I was going to have Internet access at the hospital when my baby was born, but the maternity ward wasn't wired. I started a little log of what was going on -- while Patricia slept -- and played CDs on my laptop to give her something to listen to. But I never had time to follow up and finish. I don't know how long I intended to keep doing this. But it was a one-shot deal.

My lovely bride is, again, snoring. She’s always snored, but it’s gotten heavy with the pregnancy.
Eating for two – ha ha. Good joke. Everyone gets it, and laughs.
She’s been breathing for two for months now. It has put her respiratory system to the test.
We have spent a night of some pain, a bit of unease, and she reached the point of asking for “something” to take the edge off her pain. It was supposed to make her a little woozy, a little drowsy. But she’s out cold.
It is almost 9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 22..
I have called my family, her family. I have to call her office and get a number to call her boss, let her know.
But our baby is coming. On the way. There’s been no backing out for months now. Never was any backing out, really.
But there’s REALLY no backing out now.

So this wonderful day started with a bit of a bad night. I expected her to be home when I was on my way home, but when I called, she was was still at work. I knew she had thought about going to see the doctor, so I asked if she had. She wanted to wait to tell me later, but I got it out of her.
Her blood pressure was a bit high, and she was cramping a bit more uncomfortably. She was not dilated, so the doctor was afraid of pre-eclampsya. He took some blood and told her to come back Friday.
She went back to the office and got down to finishing up the conversion of her templates from the 25-inch web templates to the 24-inch. Just an inch, but it takes a lot of effort.
I told her to come home, but she wasn’t home until like 9:30 or 10.
She was afraid she was having contractions. She also wanted to eat a bit. I made her an egg salad sandwich, because that requires all of 10 seconds of effort.
When we started timing her contractions, they were around a minute to a minute and half long, and about five to seven minutes apart. The “key” time is to be a minute long, five minutes apart, for an hour.
She'd had a few in the car just like the ones she was having now. And they were at the same level. I started running the watch.
We called the doctor, and he said if she wanted to go to the hospital, it was up to her. She wanted to sleep, and be with the dogs for a little longer. So we watched the Colbert Report, got a few laughs, and tried to sleep.
We went to bed about 1:30 p.m., She woke me about 4. She was ready. She had slept good for a while, but two good contractions had woken her.
It was hard leaving the dogs behind.
We were talking, going along at a good clip for a bit, but when a contraction hit, she said, “Are you at least going the speed limit?”
We triaged, and to both our surprise, Patricia was dilated between 3 and 4 centimeters. Wow.
On the way. The nurse who checked us in, Tia, said it was possible the doctor would send us home, but mostly likely, we’d be here and we’d be having the baby.
Tia got us into the room, but she actually got to helping another woman coming in whose water had broken. She got the woman into the room and the baby just came there. So Manuela came.
Tia had us walking the halls, which is supposed to help the dilation progress. We need to get to at least 8 centimeters.
We had little progress during the night. At the 7 p.m. shift change, Tia came in and told us goodbye, and what had happened elsewhere in the ward that kept her away for a bit.
During one of our walks, we saw Dean, the guy who runs Fort Mil Automotive, who repaired Patricia’s A/C cheaper than the dealership. His wife was having a C-section.
Funny to meet someone you know.
By about 8 a.m., Patricia had had all the pain she could stand, so she wanted to get a narc. It ended up knocking her out. I made a few calls to Patricia’s work and her family, Tom and Susan.
I had called Catherine, then Anne, getting neither. Catherine called back, talked to me, then Patricia, then me again.
“Whee, we’re having a baby,” she said before hanging up.
(Captain's Log, supplemental, on June 9, 2007: WE?)
She said she was working but could get off by noon. Mom would come with her, it was decided. She called Mom. I expected Mom to call, but she didn’t.
Anne called. I’d left a message. She sang. I can’t even remember what, but it wasn’t one of my favorite songs. But to Anne, it will be the baby’s song for a while. Probably until he/she gets married.
Talked to Mom. She was praying.
Talked to John. He had the day off, and was going to come, do a couple of errands for us that we just didn’t get to. The bases for baby's car seat needed installing. The dogs needed to be handled, either walked or taken to the Dirty Dog Depot. Probably the latter. And we need Patricia's work key taken to the office. Debbie either had the day off or got off, and is coming with him.
There is no internet access here, and I had promised a bunch of people they’d get an e-mail during the event. Sucks.

’s almost noon. I need sleep. She will wake up soon, and we’ll see what we see.

Except for the spell check to correct, and the supplemental note in there, that's all that I wrote that night.
I dind't even make a note of what the doctor said when he came. The first one.
Or the bit about the actual doctor who came in and helped Patricia deliver. Her cellphone went off and started playing the Tiger Rag. The doctor didn't understand the horrified, murderous look on my face at first, but when she saw my USC Gamecocks shirt AND hat, she said, "Uh oh, I'm in trouble."
Patricia laughed pretty hard. I had to take my cell phone out, play the USC fight song and remove exorcise the demon sounds. But I let her proceed.
Other than being a graduate of Clemson at some point in her career, it was actually a pretty good decision.
We had a few other funny bits, but I can't remember them right now, almost nine month later.

Friday, June 01, 2007

My Hootie Story

(Everything in here is mostly true except the bit about the bandana.)

There was a major fuss down in Columbia last month. A guy with whom I used to occasionally drink and some of his buddies were causing the fuss, first at The Horseshoe, then a few days later at Finlay Park.
Why was it such a big deal, I wonder, since anybody can get a CD cut these days -- cheap.
What's all the fuss about Hootie and The Blowfish?
I mean, why were they a significant subplot, the subject of two to three jokes, on a very special episode of "Friends" last year? Or actually BE on Letterman, more than once?
Wait a minute. I know these guys.
Or, I knew those guys.
OK, I knew one of those guys and one of the others (the one everyone thinks is Hootie) used to date a friend for a while while I was in college.
They are my age, people. My age. In fact, older. Yet I have to go around pretending to be an adult, listening to the constant refrain of "man you're getting GRAY" from friends and family, yet they do videos and interviews where people talk about their youthful enthusiasm and fratboy charm.
Sure they're a kickin' band, and always have been. But people in South Carolina are taking undue pride in Hootie and The Blowfish.
Remember when they were being considered for the Order of the Palmetto, but that was canned because Darius Rucker, the lead singer, actually had the nerve to have a thought that DIDN'T agree with the governor's position on the Confederate Flag atop the State House?
Though it fell apart, that was the state of South Carolina trying to cash in on the group's sudden fame.
Last fall, for Homecoming activities at the USC College of Journalism and Mass Communications, a luncheon was held to honor several outstanding graduates in the journalism field. High on the list to be honored were Rucker and Mark Bryan, who both attended the broadcasting program at the J-School.
They aren't exactly in the "biz," as journalism graduates (such as me and Darius and Mark) like to call it, but they communicated volumes by saying from the get-go they wouldn't go and then didn't.
They knew the college was trying to cash in on the group's sudden fame.
It continues apace, with VH-1 recasting it's "History of Hootie" on Sunday, as well as all Hootie videos in a "rock block."
So, not to be outdone, here's my Hootie story. (A local bartender says everyone's got a Hootie story.)
I met Mark Bryan more than once. I'm pretty sure he was at a party where I was also. Details are sketchy, but quite possibly one of us was and most probably both of us were, drunk. Hey, it was college and neither of us were driving.
We were introduced by a mutual friend, who said he was "Mark of Hootie and The Blowfish.
I said "Is that the terrible band that just does cover tunes?"
Nope, my friend said, that was Tootie and the Joneses, or another of the many OOTY bands that were so popular in Columbia during the '80s.
"So this is the one that does all the frat parties?"
I was getting warmer.
Who knew?
Anyway, I saw him all the time after that, mostly waiting for the ShutleCock at the J-School.
Said "Hi. " Occasionally talked.
I now tell people that not only am I "buds" with the band, but that, heck, my mother also met them.
True story.
For some reason, I was taking my parents to eat at Yesterday's in Columbia. Looking for a parking space in Five Points is like doing open heart surgery on Pat Buchanan -- just impossible to find one.
Down the block from Yesterday's is Monterray Jack's, a great bar. The band was playing there that night, and they were unloading their gear. I recognized my drinking bud, Mark Bryan, and introduced him to my mother, because he waved at me first, so I had to.
"This is, uh, Mark, uh," I said, "He's in this band ... uh. ..."
Mark said hello, was very polite, which my mother commented on, and he let us have the space the band's van was in once it was unloaded.
He left and my mother asked "How did he hurt his head?"
(It was the bandana on his head. He's the one who always wears the bandana, which looks like ... Anyway.)
So now, with this background, I go around telling people I'm real tight with the band. At a ribbon cutting a few months back, I met a girl from Bennettsville. We were at USC at the same time. She remembered attending many Hootie concerts at "Greene Street's" a bar that was neither on Greene Street nor in existance anymore.
"I guess anyone who went to USC in the '80s can say they know Hootie and the Blowfish," she said. I nodded. But neither she nor they knows them like I know them.
That's what I meant about undue pride. It's not that the band itself shouldn't be proud of what it's done. While they won't admit it, those cashing in on it are also trying to steal a bit of the credit for Hootie's success for themselves.
I'll admit that's what I'm doing, but only after.
After I tell people I know which one is Hootie, after I tell them that I once told Mark Bryan that "the porpoises make me cry," and I want my cut.
But it's just me trying to cash in on the sudden fame of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Everybody's doing it nowadays.

Originally published in The Cheraw Chronicle June 6, 1996.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Forrest Gump of S.C. Music Scene?

"When you were at USC," my brother asked, "did you know Darius Rucker?"
No. I worked with his girlfriend, I said. I didn't elaborate, but she was at The Gamecock. She was in production, I was in editorial.
I could further elaborate that I did talk many times with Mark Bryan, guitarist for Hootie and the Blowfish. My mom even met Mark once, a long time. I could further further elaborate that back then, H & the B was just a bar band, popular with the frat boys.
Why do you ask, I asked back.
Rucker, lead singer of the Blowfish, commonly, mistakenly believed to be Hootie, was on some special about South Carolina.
They had also talked about Dizzie Gillespie on the special, John said. That he was from Cheraw, and Cheraw had a jazz music scene going on.
"And you used to live in Cheraw, right?" John asked.
Yeah. I still couldn't tell where this was going. Again, I didn't elaborate, but I didn't get to know many people who knew Dizzy Gillespie. I did go to Dizzy Gillespie Apartments many times. It's a housing project. Many times it was for drug busts. Once for a murder. Many times also I went there for "Take back the community" type events, because most residents didn't buy into the crime that seemed to be rampant in that community. Cheraw has since dedicated a statue in memory of Gillespie, and is honoring his tie to the community.
However, in January of 1995, the old Holly Inn burned to the ground. The inn had apartments out back in which Dizzy's band members used to stay when he came back to town. It was a decrepit structure. There was still enough to restore at the time of the fire, but not enough after the fire. I walked to that fire and beat the fire department there. It was a block from my own apartment building.
Dizzy used to come over to the inn and have jam sessions with his band.
Anyway, back to my brother. He said the show also talked about James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.
"Said he was from Barnwell," my brother said.
I knew where this was going.
"You used to work in Barnwell, right?"
Yeah. My Godfather of Soul story/
I interviewed him once, but that's business. Doesn't count in Six Degrees of Stephen Guilfoyle.
But I met him. We all knew, at the paper, that Brown was from Barnwell, and being just down the highway living in Beech Island, he sometimes dropped by. So we always thought it was a possibility.
Barnwell is not a nowhere town, and a stretch limo can make the rounds. But when a black stretch limo passed through town with a license tag that said GDFTHR or some such variation, we knew we could find him. I sent my reporters out to find James Brown.
They came back, none successful. So I went out myself.
I found the limo parked on a street behind our building, in front of a law firm. James Brown was meeting Miles Loadholt, a local attorney. They were of a generation, and I think their families knew each other growing up. James Brown called Miles "Mr. Miles."
They stood outside, I took a picture of them shaking hands, a friend of Miles had it framed for him a while later. It was a good picture.
That was the first time I met the Godfather of Soul.
I could hear the wheels churning in my brother's brain.
Hootie, Dizzy and Brown, oh my.
I'm the Forrest Gump of South Carolina's Music scene. I'm always there, in the backdrop.
Or at least that's the impression my brother has.
Mama says, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."
Unless you buy a box of plain chocolates. Then, you pretty much know what you're going to get.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

FIRE AT TONY'S II: Softball team backers punt their barbecue

It’s not a football term, but the Carolina Angels softball team and their backers had to punt Saturday.
They were to hold a barbecue fund-raiser at Fest-i-Fun. They had the backing of the Bare Bones Barbecue team. They had about 500 pounds of Boston butts to be smoked up for hungry festival-goers and a prime spot, just next to the big white main tent, from which to sell.
Like in softball and many sports, the threat of rain wasn’t a sure bet to call the game.
But Tony’s Pizza caught fire early Saturday morning, and Fest-i-Fun was cancelled by city organizers.. Fire trucks remained on Tom Hall Street, downtown Fort Mill’s main drag, late into the afternoon, and much of the downtown was blocked off by police cars and yellow tape.
So the Carolina Angels punted.
Michael Kidd, who coaches the Angels and is also on Bare Bones arranged to set up at the Presbyterian chuch a couple of blocks down S.C. Hwy. 160 across from the walking park.
The girls on the team made a couple of signs, got at least one white balloon — just circular — and took to the sidewalk hawking ’cue.
Kidd said he “grew up” in the church, so it wasn’t a problem getting the location.
This is the second year Bare Bones has cooked ‘cue for the Angels. They raised about $2,000 at Fest-i-Fun last year, and had hoped to raise at least that much this year, selling, by the plate, barbecue that has won awards in the Greenway Barbecue and Bluegrass festival in the fall.
The barbecue is smoked in a cooker after being prepped with a ketchup/vinegar mix sauce. Brian Kidd worked the smoker Saturday.
About five or six of the girls on the team were working the signs, one for the softball team, another for the barbecue team. They were working hard but laughing.
They seemed to be having a good time despite learning that sometimes, in life, sometimes even in softball, you have to punt.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Extra Meatball Please: Fire At Tony's

Tony's Pizza in downtown Fort Mill burned Saturday morning.
Owner Joseph Randazzo says he thinks he is going to build back, but it's too early to tell.
I understand it being too soon. The fire started around 3 a.m., and it's just about 1 p.m. now.
But he needs to build it back. Not for his own business plan or for its historical value.
No, it's just that I think Tony's Pizza is tied inextricably both to my life in Fort Mill and my marriage.
When I was a' courtin' my wife, many is the time I would drive up to Fort Mill. The first place she took me to lunch in Fort Mill, when I came up on a Friday afternoon, was Tony's Pizza.
She said I had to have the lunch special.
The lunch special. Spaghetti and meatballs and garlic knots.
It might have been that first lunch there, but it was there I met Jeff Updike.
He was having the lunch special. I think, for some odd reason, he did not have the meatballs. There certainly weren't any meatballs on his plate when he invited Patricia to come on over to his table and sit. They were Rotary buddies.
He looked me up and down kind of like he was a big brother checking me out, knowing that Patricia had a new "beau."
I guess he found me worthy enough. At Patricia's prompting, he told me all about about his work with the Nation's Ford Land Trust, a conservancy to protect land in York County. Despite his unredeemable character flaw of being a Clemson fan, I made a friend that day.
That was just the first time I had lunch there, just the first of many fine Fort Mill Township people I met and befriended.
And the special was always so good, I took to ordering an extra meatball.
I branched out just once, and tried the lasagna.
With an extra meatball on the side. I just had to have it.
There are other restaurants in the Township. But Tony's Pizza is just a piece of downtown Fort Mill that needs to be there. Since I ate there with my fiancée who has since become and remains my wife, the two are linked in the back of my mind in some weird way. It is not logical, I admit. But it is what it is in my mind.
If Joe Randazzo and building owner Bayles Mack do not build it back, who knows what will happen to my marriage?
It's not just me. When my brother and sisters came to Fort Mill to meet Patricia, they went downtown. It was lunchtime, late in the week. So they went to Tony's.
They know it too, though they rarely get to downtown Fort Mill when they get here.
So Saturday, May 5, 2007, might end up bring a real sad morning, if the fire marks the end.
It has to come back. I need my lunch special.
And an extra meatball.

Check out the Fort Mill Times breaking news coverage of the fire here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Rumor Mill

A few years back, when The Herald in Rock Hill first started its online blogs and forums, one of the paper's writers posted a rumor on it.
The rumor later turned out to be true. But I thought it was pretty bad at the time. I asked the question, would he have put in the newspaper what he put on the blog.
He responded that the rules were different on the blog.
Some might say, since it turned out to be true, what's the problem?
I think that the published of a rumor by a newspaper, whether it goes on the internet in a blog or in the newspaper just tanks any credibility a newspaper might have.
I'm not the only one.
Here's the initial blog. When it went up, it did not say "Confirmed." It was later edited. You'll find my comments, under the name "reader," in that thread.
A couple of things went wrong here beyond just posting a rumor.
The writer had an impression, carried through on that blog, and also in his reportage in the newspaper, that Baxter was something special, not just a subdivision, big, with an unusual a mount of commercial space.
"A CVS definitely makes sense for that area. A drug store is about the only thing missing from the immediate Baxter area. This wouldn't be the first CVS in Fort Mill, though. There's another one on Tom Hall Street," he wrote at the time.
It made sense for him to have a drug store "in that area."
He may have had it solid from the construction workers, but that's not a source you would use to confirm a story like that for a print publication. But he went ahead and posted the rumor because it made sense, to him, "for that area."
The writer doesn't cover that beat anymore. It was a natural moving on. He certainly didn't get in trouble for posting a rumor before he had it confirmed.
But if he was still in the area, I would love to show him around the area and explain to him why the logic that led him to conclude a CVS made "sense" for the area was flawed.
"A drug store is about the only thing missing from the immediate Baxter area.," he said.
The CVS has now been open for several months. It was built in a shopping center anchored by a Harris Teeter grocery store. That Harris Teeter is as full-featured as a supermarket gets. It has a pharmacy. It had one at the time he posted his rumor.
I don't know how big the immediate area is to him, but across the Interstate, not a mile away from Baxter, was Winn Dixie. It was full-featuered. It has now closed, but reopened as a Bi-Lo. Bi-Lo has and Winn Dixie had pharmacies in their stores. So the immediate area already had two pharmacies.
Well, one might say, "A supermarket pharmacy is not a drug store."
That would be true. But, now and at the time of this blog post, there was a drug store in the area. Fort Mill Pharmacy, a locally owned and operated drug store, sits right in the same shopping center as Winn Dixie/Bi-Lo.
So there were three pharmacies at the time he posted a rumor on the premise that "a drug store is the only thing missing from the immediate Baxter area."
Does the premise hold up, under that scenario? Was it worth it, to post a rumor, cause possible damage to journalistic credibility by doing so, when the premise that bolstered your initial decision does't hold up?
I don't think so.
But I post this now, here, because the other factor that made his posting of a rumor a problem is coming to fruition.
If you come to that particular corner on which the CVS sits, you can look across Pleasant Hill Road and see something interesting.
A Walgreens pharmacy is going up. There used to be a little golf shop on that corner.
Does it make sense? Not so much. But the CVS makes sense, for another reason, when you think about the Walgreens.
The Walgreens was in the planning stages before CVS. The developers had to wait until the family that owned the little pro shop gave it up. I believe it was an estate matter.
If a national chain drug store was the only thing missing for "the Baxter area" at the time the CVS rumor was posted, well, one was already on the way — Walgreens.
The writer knew enough about the area to know that CVS already owned a store in Fort Mill. That was downtown Fort Mill.
Did it make sense for CVS to build a second store in the Township and possibly damage the business that the first store does? Not on its own.
No. But if CVS thought it would lose clients, not just from Baxter but from the western side of the Township to a Walgreens, it makes perfect sense. Not because of a strategic lack of pharmacies to serve Baxter, but because of a tactical decision to serve existing customers with a store closer by.
To its credit, CVS not only got some land, but got its store built and opened first. It moved decisively and fast.
I have long been a CVS customer, but I haven't gone back to the Tom Hall store now that there is one open closer to home. What would be the point of driving the extra miles? Plus, this CVS has better photo reproducing equipment, and I print a lot of digital pics.
When I needed to buy some pre-natal vitamins for my wife, I got them at Winn Dixie, however, then a second batch at Bi-Lo, because CVS didn't have them. I've bought a ton of cold medicine at the pharmacy in Harris Teeter,
When Walgreens opens, I'll go there too. My wife and I usually buy milk at Costco, because it's like $3.99 a gallon at most supermarkets, but $2.39 a gallon at Costco. Walgreens occasionally sells milk close to the Costco price. I'll loo around I'm sure when I do that.
I had problems with The Herald's blog approach. It seems like it's "everybody in the pool."
The journalist who gave me my big break into the business resisted strongly my attempts to have a column.
"You have to earn a column," she said. She was so right.
I have held the people who work for me to that standard ever since.
At The Herald, there seems to be no discrimination over who gets to do a blog, and some, as this writer admitted in reply to my concern, think that the rules are different.
One reporter has not been there a year, and is blogging about a beat she has been on for a couple of weeks.
During the political campaign, the paper put a very young, raw reporter on the political race, in addition to his coverage of Rock Hill City government. He posted personal opinions and jokes in both. His blog/column contained outright opinions about the people and situations he was covering, at times, and there was a lot of subtle opinion thrown in as well.
People will tell me I'm old-fashioned, a bit of a fuddy duddy.
Perhaps. I've embraced the new techology as each bit came along, as the budget of my papers would allow.
What I am old-fashioned about is journalism. Newspapers that are losing subscriptions and ad dollars are doing it because they embraced new things. The ones that are thriving are doing things the old fashioned way. They are telling you things you didn't know before, and making sure they are confirmed before doing it.
So, two years later, I'm wondering.
Was it worth it to print a rumor, now that the full story is out there on why CVS chose that location. It made a smart tactical decision to shore up its clientele on the western end of the Township. I still wonder if it hurt the store in downtown Fort Mill.
But this side of the county had three pharmacies within a half mile and a fourth on the way when this writer said it made sense because of the "lack" of a pharmacy.
(I won't even mention the Eckerds a mile or so down S.C. Highway 160, close to Tega Cay. That one was there before the Harris Teeter.)
Lastly, there were other people who knew about Walgreens at the time. Other journalists. If they had used the standards used in the original rumor blog, Walgreens would have been in print several months before that blog was posted.
But they didn't have a confirmation, so they didn't print it, anywhere. They stuck by the rules. That's the part that bothers me most, even more than a year later.

At the time, I e-mailed the post to a journalism professor who blogs, to see what he thought.
Here's his blog (I hit it infrequently, but I always find something interesting to read on it when I do.)

Rumors vs. RUMORS?